British Hurdling Athlete
Stratford-Upon-Avon athlete Andrew Pozzi currently holds the title of European Indoor Champion for 60-metre hurdles, securing gold in 2017 in Belgrade. Pozzi still holds the record for the fastest ever time run by a UK junior hurdler (Under 20’s), 13.29 seconds, set on 3rd July 2011 in Mannheim, Germany, and has competed with Team GB at both the London and Rio Olympic Games.
Click on the infographic to check out Pozzi’s vital statistics or read the posts beneath to discover the highs and lows of his journey so far.
Behind the Scenes at ISTAF Berlin
Following on from a productive three-week warm weather training camp to Tenerife, it was time to open my 2018 indoor season in Berlin, Germany at the prestigious ISTAF meeting in the Mercedes Benz Arena.
Most people have the opportunity to watch international sport, in this case athletics, on TV but rarely get see what happens behind the scenes or during the build up to the event, which is often far less glamorous. So here is what an athlete does, aside from race at an event.
I arrived two days before racing in Berlin on a five-hour flight from Tenerife and travelled straight to the hotel, arriving at around 10pm. At this time, there was just enough time to get something to eat and head to the hotel gym to spend a bit of time stretching and jogging in an attempt to work off some of the stiffness from the flight. The following morning was spent with journalists fulfilling press commitments, largely centering on the city hosting the European Championships in August. The championships are particularly significant because it’s the last time that Berlin’s Olympic Stadium will ever be used for an athletics event. The stadium was the setting for Usain Bolt’s 100m and 200m world records in 2009 and, more importantly, Jesse Owen’s impressive 1936 Olympic performances under the nose of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
Usually at competitions time is so tight that athletes, myself included, rarely get to visit and see the cities where we compete. However, seeing as my hotel was right by the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall I took a little walk to take in some of the history.
The day before every competition my coach makes us take a short training session to activate everything in preparation for the following day and iron out any technical kinks. At this time the stadium was still being put together as it is only temporary so we were taken 30 minutes away to a training venue on the other side of the city. My coach wasn’t with me in Berlin due to other commitments so I did this with a few other athletes that were competing. Often I travel alone to competitions but having been on the circuit for some time it’s like meeting up with your extended family. Many athletes follow the same competition schedules so you often become quite close, which helps when travelling a lot. My pre-meet session usually involves a 30 minute warm up, 15 minutes of specific technical drills and a few block starts to the first hurdle. That’s usually enough to activate but not fatigue me for the following day.
On the day of a competition, boredom can certainly set in if you’re not well practiced in the art of doing very little! I wasn’t racing until 7:30pm in the evening and with the stadium only a two-minute walk from the hotel I only had meal times to break up my day. I spent most of the day in my room making my way through season three of Peaky Blinders on Netflix and doing small bits of admin before focusing on my race later in the afternoon.
No matter how grand the stadium, the warm up areas indoors are often pretty atrocious! There tends to be more than 100 of the world’s best athletes crammed into corridors on temporary rollout carpet style tracks beneath the seating for the awaiting coliseum.
The Calm Before the Storm
About 30 minutes before the event start time all athletes are called to a holding room in preparation for being led out to the stadium. Again, there’s very little to do other than sit and stare at your competitors and wait for the event. At this stage, everyone is different. Some people like to talk, while others hate it. Some stick in cliques, whether it be with friends or training partners. Sometimes it’s hostile, sometimes it’s friendly, sometimes it’s silent, and sometimes there’s mind games. Every call room is different depending on the people in it and the importance of the situation/event.
The ISTAF meeting was my first since the 2017 outdoor season, which finished in August. I was really happy to finish with a win ahead of a really competitive field that included Balázs Baji who won bronze at last year’s World Championships in London. I finished in a time of 7.58 seconds, which at present is the fifth fastest time in the world. It is 0.01s slower than I opened my season with last year before going on to run the fastest time in the world. I was hoping for a quicker time as my training had been going really well, but given that I made several big mistakes in the race this is a great start and certainly something that I can build on.
Rio Olympic Games 2016, Here I Come!
On Sunday 26th June at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, I ran the race of my life in the 110m British Championship hurdles achieving a personal best time of 13.31 seconds and securing my first British gold medal. My time was also fast enough to place 8th on the World Rankings and the fastest in Europe. Having run the qualifying standard twice as required, I’m over the moon! I’ve qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games which will be held between August 5th and 21st. I couldn’t be happier.
It’s been a hard four years for me hampered by injuries, but it’s been worth the wait! It’s the first race of the season where I’ve really had it all together, my body feels great and it’s the best I’ve felt this season!
Outdoor Season Opened with a Personal Best!
I began my outdoor season of 2016 with an impressive personal best at Loughborough University. I managed to secure a time of 13.32 seconds in the 110m hurdles which was well inside the Olympic Qualifying standard of 13.47 seconds. I’m really happy to have a decent run although I think that was pretty rusty on the back end. I was really pleased with how I ran until about hurdle six, and then I just lost control a little bit, but there’s a lot more to come.
In order for a British Athlete to guarantee their place on the British Athletics team for the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, they must run the qualifying standard twice and place either 1st or 2nd in the Olympic trials at the Alexander Stadium. Therefore, I’ll be competing again in Birmingham at the end of June.
60m Hurdles British Indoor Champion for 2016!
I became the British Indoor Champion for 2016 when I ran a seasons’ best time of 7.61 to win the 60m hurdles final ahead of Lawrence Clarke (7.65). This was a really hard one for me, just in terms of preparation so I am absolutely delighted. To have run a respectable time is even better, it means a lot to me.
Having won this title, I also qualified for the World Indoor Championships in Portland, the United States taking place in March 2016. The decision to participate will have to be well thought out with my coach as training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio is first on my agenda.
Opening season at Lee Valley South of England Championships
The winter months for any athlete can be best described as mundane but it builds the foundations for the entire season. The indoor season for me is a good measuring stick of progress, highlighting where improvements can be made ahead of the outdoor season, the Olympic Games and my prerequisite trials.
I’ve been working closely with my coach to fine-tune technical points of hurdling and analysing my training efforts. A provisional indoor schedule has been outlined, starting at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in North London with the South of England Championships. After this, I’ll be heading to Dusseldorf in early February to compete against the World’s best hurdlers in an invitational race.
Meeting the next generation of Athletes!
From September to December I have been training 6 days a week whilst at University in Bath. I returned home to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the Christmas Break, but my work didn’t stop there. I decided to spend my holidays returning to the Stratford-Upon-Avon Athletics Club where I started my athletics career 14 years ago. I had the privilege of training with my old coach and the newest set of up-and-coming athletes.
It has changed a lot in that time but the ethos of the athletics club is still as strong and positive as ever.
Slow but steady - overcoming the hurdles!
For the first time in a long while, I have been able to build consecutively and increase both the volume and intensity of my training to a point where competing internationally is very realistic again. It hasn’t all been plain sailing as we’ve had to adapt to combat the stresses that more intense training has placed on my body, and not just focus exclusively on the health of my foot. This process has required great attention to detail when planning every session to maintain a balance between high-intensity work and more manageable rest.
It was important to progress at a speed that minimised injury risk, but also at a sufficient speed that would deliver me to a point of racing in this 2015 season to build a foundation for next year. Presently at one year out from the 2016 Games, I am really happy with where I am at.
Further setbacks push training back
Since my last update, progress has been…well…turbulent. Where I was hopeful of getting back into full sprint training and ready to compete in May/June I have suffered minor setbacks. As a result, I’ve had to re-evaluate my approach to my training schedule and the 2015 season.
Since my foot injury last year, I have experienced minor pain and discomfort at all stages that have posed the questions – “Is this pain a natural part of recovery?” or “Is this pain a sign that something is wrong and I should stop? My approach to interpreting this has been to seek second, third and fourth opinions from various medical experts to try to obtain some objective feedback on the progress of my injury.
Off to New York for Rehab
At the end of March, I was sent to New York at short notice to work with a rehab specialist who had recently finished working with the NY Knicks basketball team. He identified several areas that I could strengthen and subsequently reduce the impact to the previously injured bones in my feet.
Alongside this, I started working with a physiotherapist in Birmingham who works with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, focusing on feet and foot injuries. Since then, I have made significant progress and if all goes well, which we’re better equipped now to assume it will, I plan on returning to competitive racing by the end of the summer season in August/September.
Road to recovery!
Following surgery, I have spent the vast majority of time between May and November 2014 in a cast or protective boot of some description and during this time my training options were very limited. I was kept busy doing various circuits and cardiovascular work that alleviated the stress on my feet.
Since the end of October my attention has been on rehabilitation, and although my progress has gone perfectly so far, the plan is to be really cautious whilst getting back into running and hurdling. I have decided to skip the indoor season in 2015 and postpone competing until May/June of 2015 in the outdoor season.
6 months in a protective boot!
Having been in my protective boot since May, my training has been rather restricted. I started myself off slowly in the swimming pool as I was still unable to walk on land without the protective boot, allowing me to walk again without putting too much pressure on my feet. I swam 4 times a week and went through a range of walking drills on the floor of the pool before starting normal walking on land.
At this time, I was also able to start using the exercise bike to do high resistance sprints as long as I kept the boot on, again to reduce the load on my foot. My training at the moment is focused around conditioning and strengthening all aspects of my body to support my feet and reduce the risk of injury. We are also adapting my training to reduce high impact exercises and instead try to get the power benefits from them through different exercises.